At times, the separation between Gonzaga and Good Counsel hasn’t seemed that great — two years ago, it was a few costly mistakes and a freak play in a 50-38 regular season Gonzaga loss. Other times, though, the gulf between the two teams has been obvious — like last year, when the Falcons won two games by a combined 91-7 score.
When the two teams meet on Saturday, however, Eagles Coach Aaron Brady hopes his team can close the gap, and keep it close enough that perhaps it can pounce on a squad that has not lost to a D.C.-area team since Oct. 2010.
“We need to just come out and survive the first quarter,” Brady said. “They have a lot of speed and play with a lot of energy and we have to survive that and get the game to the second half.”
Gonzaga will be boosted by the return of Notre Dame-bound defensive back Devin Butler, who intercepted a pass in his first game back from injury last week. A healthy Butler sets up one of the most intriguing matchups of the season: Butler against Good Counsel All-Met Kendall Fuller, a Virginia Tech-bound defensive back who also plays wide receiver and is perhaps the most explosive playmaker in the region.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Brady said.
Gonzaga has had success running the ball behind Reggie Corbin (31 carries, 246 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Robbie Walker (57 carries, 324 yards, 5 touchdowns), but it will face its biggest challenge yet in a Good Counsel linebacking corps made up entirely of Division I recruits.
The Falcons, meanwhile, boast an offense with playmakers like Dorian O’Daniel, who should return to the lineup this week, Kirk Garner (14 catches, 205 yards), quarterback Brendan “Whitey” Marshall (47 of 72, 730 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Fuller.
“This game is like a championship game this weekend,” Brady said. “There is a lot at stake for both teams. They’re top dog and they don’t want to get knocked off, and for us, we want to be top dog and in order to do that have to beat them. It all goes through Good Counsel.”
Sidwell Friends Coach John Simon received a number of resumes last spring for an opening on his staff for a quarterbacks coach, and none stood out more than Ronnie Harmon’s.
Harmon, a star running back at the University of Iowa who was picked in the first round of the 1986 NFL draft, got the job and immediately went to work with senior quarterback Chase Plebani in the offseason, helping him with mechanics and making reads in the passing game. And it has paid dividends through two games, maintains Simon, who has watched Plebani make better decisions and throw the ball with more confidence this season in wins over Randolph Macon and Victory Christian.
“It’s helped Plebani tremendously,” said Simon, who noted that his passing game hasn’t been this prolific in a number of years. “That individual attention, which is really beneficial, especially for a quarterback.”
Harmon, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL with five different teams, is also a former offensive assistant at Western Illinois.
Plebani, who is headed to Yale to play baseball next year, has thrown for 240 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Sidwell Friends (2-0) will meet Model (1-3) this Saturday.
Landon running back Myles Allen is expected to start this week against Collegiate after missing two games due to a head injury suffered in the season opener. Allen rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns in a 14-11 opening win over McNamara. Quarterback Philip Pena led Landon (2-1) in rushing with 57 yards in last week’s 24-14 loss to Mount St. Joseph’s.